Genre: Family/Tweens and Teens/Love Story
Guide age recommendation: 9+
Runtime: Approx. 115 minutes
Network: Disney Channel
Let it Shine - Overview
16-year-old Cyrus DeBarge (Tyler James Williams), although the son of a pastor who thinks rap music is from the devil, is an intense musician. He loves good music, and he's also (unbeknownst to his father) a rhyming fool who can drop a hot line on the spot. However, a humble sort of guy, he lacks confidence and the ability to self promote.
But when Cyrus and his best friend Kris (Trevor Jackson) find out that the flashy and famous singer Roxie (Coco Jones), a childhood friend, is hosting a music competition which will make a star out of the winner, they both decide to enter. Cyrus, who calls himself "Truth," pens a heartfelt song that is actually about Roxie, or rather Roxanne Andrews as he knows her. His song wins the competition hands down. The only problem is, Roxie mistakenly assumes that Kris is "Truth," and Kris is more than willing to take all the credit for his best friend's beautiful lyrics.
Let it Shine - Guide Review for Parents
Loosely based on the play Cyrano de Bergerac, the throwback to a classic provides a sweet literary foundation for this new Disney love story. Overall, the movie entertains with a soulful and youthful story, while conveying a positive message about being "real" and staying true to one's self. The main characters in the movie give solid performances, and while some of the characters are overly stereotyped, they do present a very concrete juxtaposition that encourages viewers to admire depth of character and detest shallowness.
The movie does contain a lot of rappers insulting each other and getting in each other's faces. In the opening scenes, two rapper spew hateful insults about each other, including insults about breath, clothes and rapping ability (which is obviously an extremely mild lyrical fight compared to what could be heard in a similar type of word fight between rappers in the undisneyfied real world). The dance moves and lyrics are saturated with attitude and arrogance. The insulting back and forths come up throughout the movie and culminate in a competition in which two rappers have a rap-off, trading insults until the audience declares one a winner. I was expecting a character to rise above the insults and send a new message in the competition, however it never happens.
The pastor in the movie is overzealous, aiming reprimands at specific youth during his sermons and railing against "video vixens" and the evils of rap and hip-hop. Some guys in the movie ogle girls, especially Roxie. One character calls girls "honeys," and another talks of his friend wanting to "hook up" with a girl (doesn't seem to have been meant sexually). Cyrus flat out lies to his father and leads somewhat of a double life behind his father's back, although he's still a good kid overall. In the end, many of the main characters including the father grow and learn, with the flick culminating in a solid updated and uplifting version of "This Little Light of Mine."